Whether you love them or hate them, there’s no denying the fact that fruits and vegetables are a big part of the human world. Yet, did you know that they used to look pretty different?
Hands up if you have a whole load of fruit and vegetables in your kitchen right now? We’d hope so too, considering these nutrient-packed foods are some of the healthiest items you could add to your diet. There are oodles of different fruits and vegetables out there in the world, and they all differ in color, shape, size, and taste - which means you can mix and match however you please! It could be that you try to hide your mushrooms in your stroganoff because you’re just not a fan, or it could be that you create a rainbow fruit salad because you can’t get enough of the sweetness. The world of fruit and veg truly is your oyster.
Although you might think you’re up to date on your local produce and the foods you want to pack into your 5-a-day, did you know that our fruit and veg used to look pretty different? As society changes and the need for food increases, the shape and size of our fruit and vegetables have changed dramatically. In fact, some of these fruits and vegetables from the past are barely recognizable!
Carrots didn’t grow as fast
Most of us are used to heading to the grocery store and picking up a bunch of bright orange carrots. You know, like the ones Bugs Bunny used to eat! However, it seems as though these carrots have changed dramatically over the years.Images for illustration purpose only*
It’s been suggested that the first carrots made their way into the world during the 10th century, where they were grown within the Persian and Asian empires. Just like the wild carrots that can be found today, these original carrots were long and thin, and often white in color. We have the domestication of carrots to thank (or not) for the thicker, orange carrots we know and love today.
Kale wasn’t quite as leafy
Did you know that kale is actually a cultivar of cabbage? You can probably tell that, as both vegetables look extremely similar. Kale has become hugely popular over the past few years, as it’s considered one of the healthiest vegetables in the game.Images for illustration purpose only*
Nevertheless, the kale we have on offer was pretty different to the kale that was cultivated for food in 2,000 BC. That’s because this kale was less leafy and more sparse in terms of its head and foliage. It looked more like a garden weed than a vegetable and has since been bred into leafy forms such as curly kale. After all, there needs to be enough to fill a whole bag.
Bananas used to have large seeds
If you’re partial to the odd banana or two, then you’re probably used to the fact that you can peel it with no issues and eat it straight from the natural casing. Yet, if you lived on this planet 7,000 years ago, your banana-eating experience wouldn’t have been quite so easy.Images for illustration purpose only*
That’s because modern cultivation has transformed them into easy-peel fruits with tiny little seeds in them, due to the fact that they were bred from two ancient forms of wild banana. These wild bananas featured extremely tough skins that would have been impossible to pull apart like we do today, as well as large seeds that took up most of the flesh!
Eggplants were once yellow in color
Although most of us know the eggplant from our iPhone emoji board, there are also others who eat this vegetable on a regular basis. They are extremely versatile and seem to be becoming more and more popular thanks to their waxy purple skin, their soft flesh, and their unique appearance.Images for illustration purpose only*
Yet, things weren’t always this way. Before they became the talk of the emoji town, eggplants were reportedly bred in China. They were much smaller than the ones we see in grocery stores today, and they were also yellow in color. As if that wasn’t enough, oblong eggplants were rarely found in the world. They were perfect little spheres instead - almost like yellow tomatoes.
Strawberries were smaller and spikier
Nowadays, it seems as though strawberries are just getting bigger and bigger. In fact, we’ve lost count of the number of people who have posted a picture of a giant strawberry on their Instagram accounts! This is because the need for fast and constant strawberries is leading to GMO strawberries and varying farming practices.Images for illustration purpose only*
If you were to go back in time or grow your own strawberries at home, you would be able to see that wild and uncultivated strawberries are actually pretty different in their appearance. Not only are they much smaller than the strawberry we know and love today, but they also come complete with some rather cool spikes.
Corn was barely edible
Did you know that the corn we know and love today couldn’t be any more different from the sweetcorn of the past? While the exact history of corn is still debated today, many experts suggest that it was first domesticated in 7,000 BC by Native Americans.Images for illustration purpose only*
It’s been noted that this corn was first bred by those who wanted to make the teosinte plant more edible for human consumption. Featuring around a dozen kernels in an extremely hard and dry casing, this corn was then cultivated and domesticated, where it underwent huge physical changes. Today, it’s a whopping 1,000 times larger than it was when it first came into our lives!
Apples have gotten bigger over the years
Many of the apples we eat today are cultivated in China, but they are also grown across the world in various different forms. Many are grown in organic orchards, while others are grown with non-organic additions that help them to grow faster and larger.Images for illustration purpose only*
While it’s not known how long apples have resided on this planet, many experts suggest that the apple tree was one of the first trees ever to be cultivated by the human race. After all, we’ve all heard of the story of Adam and Eve! The apples that would have existed thousands of years ago would have been much smaller than the ones we eat today, as human interference has resulted in an increase in size.
Potatoes were once teeny tiny
What would we do without potatoes? This vegetable can be cooked in so many ways, and they are a staple ingredient in so many cuisines across the world. Yet, when this vegetable first made its mark on the world, potatoes were teeny tiny. They were the size of a small berry and were often extremely different in terms of their appearance.Images for illustration purpose only*
Some were spotted, some were smooth, some were rough, and they were all kinds of shapes and sizes. Wild potatoes like this can still be found away from cultivated soil and modern farms, and you can try them out for yourself. Either that or you could stick to the larger potatoes you can buy from the store.
Papaya is now much healthier
Although many of the fruits and vegetables on this list have changed due to the human desire for fast-growing fruit that is much larger than organic fruit, the papaya has been genetically modified over the years for the sake of its health. That’s because this fruit is at high risk of disease and destruction when the papaya ringspot virus is involved.Images for illustration purpose only*
Through research and scientific advancement, these plants can now be saved to ensure that they grow delicious and healthy fruit. One side effect of this is the fact that this fruit is now much larger than its ancient ancestors. However, we don’t think too many people will complain about that.
Tomatoes looked like tiny, red berries
Nowadays, you can head to the store and pick up some of the largest and juiciest tomatoes you’ve ever seen. They are now a staple ingredient within the fruit and vegetable world, and there are so many different variations. This is all thanks to domestication and GMO farming, which has allowed these tomatoes to grow from their once-tiny size.Images for illustration purpose only*
Yes, it’s believed that tomatoes first reared their heads in South America around 700 BCE. During that time, they looked like tiny little berries that grew on a vine. You can still buy wild tomatoes today if you fancy taking a break from the larger tomatoes you take home on a regular basis.
Cabbage wasn’t quite as leafy
If you walked past the plant in the picture on the left in real life, would you know it was cabbage? We’re gonna hazard a guess and say that you wouldn’t. Yet, this is what cabbage looks like in the wild, and what our ancestors used to eat before this vegetable was domesticated for bulk consumption.Images for illustration purpose only*
It’s difficult to pinpoint the exact origins of cabbage, but the first variation of wild cabbage supposedly made an appearance in Britain and the rest of Europe. With thin stalks and leaves, this cabbage is unlike the dense cabbages we now buy in the grocery store. These particular varieties are grown in designated cabbage fields and tended to for optimum yield.
Grapes were once extremely small
Modern farming has allowed us the chance to eat fruit and vegetables that are so much bigger than their ancient counterparts, and you can’t deny that these farming practices have changed the world. Of course, it’s amazing to look back and see how these fruits and veg have changed.Images for illustration purpose only*
In terms of the grapes we know and love, this fruit was once extremely small. Each grape was around the same size as a blueberry, but their taste wasn’t too different. These grapes can still be found in the wild today, and more and more farm shops are choosing to sell fresh grapes that haven’t been tampered with. So, you can now try them out for yourself.
Mangoes weren’t always this size
Everyone loves an exotic fruit every now and then, which is why mangoes are becoming increasingly popular. They are sweet and they are sour, and they are delicious whether you eat it on its own or blend it up into a smoothie. Most of the time, we don’t even think about the size of a mango in the store, because we are so used to seeing these multicolored fruits in front of us.Images for illustration purpose only*
However, mangoes weren’t always this size. This fruit can be traced back to India around 2,000 BCE, and it’s now become one of the biggest exports from the country itself. Due to the demand, what were once fairly small mangoes have since been cultivated to be much larger.
Plums were as small as grapes
Plums are the perfect addition to any fruit bowl because they are easy to eat and pretty delicious at the same time! It’s often been said that the plum was one of the world’s first domesticated fruits, and it’s safe to say that it has been on an impressive journey over the years.Images for illustration purpose only*
It’s been noted that plums were found across the world as far back as the Neolithic age, and have since become much larger in size. They were once as small as grapes, and many wild grapes are still just as small. While it doesn’t seem as though there is much of a difference in taste, we bet people are happy to have even larger plums in their modern lives.
Avocados were once overtaken by their pits
As a favorite of Millenials across the world, the avocado fruit has celebrated a resurgence in popularity over the past few years. It seems as though more and more people are enjoying the soft and versatile flesh of an avocado, and either smashing it on their toast or putting it in their smoothies!Images for illustration purpose only*
The avocados that we buy today do have a large pit, but there is still a huge amount of flesh to enjoy. However, this wasn’t the case during around 3,000 BC. That’s because these fruits were much smaller back in the day, and the avocado pit actually took up around 80% of the whole fruit. Since then, it’s been bred for customers to get more for their money.
Celery was tall and spindly
Celery is the kind of vegetable that you either love or hate, but there are many people in the world who swear by a glass of celery juice in the morning! You could head to the grocery right now and buy a bunch of celery that offers thick stalks and some leaves on the top. Our ancestors, however, didn’t have the option to eat this vegetable in such a form.Images for illustration purpose only*
That’s because wild celery is an underwater plant that grows in ribbon-like leaves and flourishes in moist conditions. It will often grow out of the water into an extremely tall and spindly plant, but this was later bred to create the variation of garden celery we eat today. After all, you can’t dip thin ribbons of celery in hummus...
Watermelon looked a little different
There’s no doubt about the fact that a watermelon requires a huge amount of preparation. Not only do you have to put in a large amount of effort in terms of the cutting and slicing, but you then have to remove the seeds. Of course, it’s now possible to buy watermelons without any seeds in them at all!Images for illustration purpose only*
The modern watermelons we can buy in the store today are a far cry from the watermelons of the 17th century. Historians have learned about the watermelons of the past from a painting by Giovanni Stanchi, which depicts a watermelon with swirled sections in the middle of it. Since then, humans have bred this fruit to have a fleshy interior that is much larger, much juicier, and much more red in color.
Lemons weren’t as aesthetically pleasing
If you’ve ever wandered across a tree and seen wrinkled yellow spheres growing from it, you’ve had the pleasure of seeing a wild lemon in the flesh. How about that? While they can still be found across the globe, these lemons have been cultivated and bred to have the soft and flawless skin we know them to have today.Images for illustration purpose only*
Yet, back in the day, this just wasn’t the case. These lemons featured a rough and ready skin that made them look more like a brain than a type of fruit. As more and more people began to grow and farm this fruit, they were transformed into something that was more pleasing to the eye.
Cucumbers were once covered in thorns
Can you imagine a cucumber with thorns? Well, you don't have to. These cucumbers can still be found in the wild today if they can stay away from the modern cultivation that has changed their size and their spikiness over the years. It’s believed that cucumbers can be traced back to India around 4,000 years ago, where this member of the gourd family was used to treat all kinds of illnesses.Images for illustration purpose only*
Many people believed that it could cure bad eyesight, cure scorpion bites, and even aid pregnancy. Although it was largely eaten by the upper class, it soon made its way down the ladder and into everyday life. Now, cucumbers are everywhere, but you don’t have to worry about pricking your tongue while you eat it.
Peaches used to be much smaller
Let’s be honest; you just can’t go wrong with a peach. While you do have to make your way around the stone, there’s still a huge amount of sweet flesh for you to sink your teeth into. However, it wasn’t always this way. The ancient peach can be traced back to around 4,000 BC, and the biggest difference between this peach and the modern peach we can buy in the store today involves the skin.Images for illustration purpose only*
While we can eat the soft skin of a peach, our ancestors would have struggled to bite through the hard and waxy skin of the wild peach. These wild peaches were also around 64 times smaller (around 25mm in height), and slightly salty.